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how do you know you have hiv virus
This chapter explains some basic but complex issues, including how your immune system works and the way that HIV makes you sick. We encourage you to browse these pages to understand more about topics such as CD4+ cells, seroconversion and other key concepts that will also help information in other chapters fall into place.
HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. The term immunodeficiency means a weakened immune system. People who have been infected with HIV are called HIV-positive (sometimes written: HIV+).
HIV is a virus that weakens your immune system, which is the internal system that defends your body against disease. Your immune system is supposed to protect you from infections, but HIV can sneak past it and then attack your body from the inside. If your immune system becomes weak enough, you can become sick from other infections.
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AIDS stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. If HIV is not treated with anti-HIV drugs, your immune system generally becomes weaker over time. Eventually, you can become sick with a life-threatening infection, at which point you are said to have AIDS.
With early diagnosis and proper treatment with anti-HIV drugs, people with HIV can avoid getting AIDS and stay healthy for a long time.
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Viruses (like HIV) are the very simplest and smallest of all living things—even smaller than bacteria and other germs. In fact, it’s hard to say whether viruses even count as living things at all, since they can’t reproduce on their own. To reproduce, viruses need to infect living cells and fool them into making more viruses. These newly formed viruses then go on to infect other cells. When describing how viruses like HIV reproduce, we use the term “replicate”.
HIV is a virus that can infect cells of the immune system, including CD4+ cells—the very cells that are supposed to fight off infections. That’s what makes HIV dangerous.
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HIV infection happens when enough HIV from an HIV-positive person gets into an HIV-negative person’s body. This can’t happen through casual contact, such as shaking hands, sneezing or touching a doorknob or toilet seat. HIV infection only happens when body fluids with a high enough amount of virus get into the HIV-negative person’s body.
Only five body fluids may contain enough virus to infect someone else: blood, semen (including pre-cum), vaginal fluid, anal fluid and breast milk. Infection can happen during sex, sharing needles and other equipment to use drugs and during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding.
However, we know that people who are engaged in care, taking HIV treatment and have an ongoing undetectable viral load are substantially less likely to transmit HIV to others. In fact, studies show that people who maintain an undetectable viral load do not pass HIV to their sexual partners. For more info, read Undetectable viral load and HIV sexual transmission.
There is little or no risk of HIV being transmitted through unbroken skin. However, transmission can happen much more easily through the mucosal membranes. These are the wet linings of body cavities like the vagina, rectum and urethra (the “pee hole” in a man’s penis or a woman’s vulva). HIV can infect cells in the lining of the vagina, rectum and penis even if the tissues are healthy. Having a sexually transmitted infection like herpes, gonorrhea or syphilis can make it even easier to transmit (or be infected by) HIV. So can any other damage to these tender tissues, which can easily happen during sex.
Sexual activities that can easily lead to HIV transmission are called high risk. High-risk sexual activities include vaginal or anal intercourse:
Some sexual activities, such as oral sex, pose only a low risk of HIV transmission. While these activities can lead to HIV transmission, the chances are much smaller than they are with high-risk activities. Other sexual activities pose no risk for HIV transmission. These include kissing, hugging, mutual masturbation or massage.
HIV can also be transmitted if you share needles or other equipment to inject drugs such as heroin, crack, steroids or hormones.
It is important to be aware of these risks, and ways to minimize them, so that you can prevent HIV passing on to your sexual partners or anyone you share drugs with. It is also important for you to protect yourself from reinfection with HIV, as this could further damage your immune system or expose you to a strain of HIV that is resistant to certain kinds of anti-HIV drugs (see Chapter 10, Treatments).
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In order to find out if you have been infected with HIV, you need to have a blood test. This blood test, often incorrectly called an AIDS test, is actually a test for HIV antibodies.
Antibodies are produced by your body as a reaction to infection with HIV. An HIV antibody test looks for the presence of these antibodies in your blood. In a standard HIV test, a needle is inserted into a vein in your arm and a sample of your blood is taken. It is sent to a lab to be tested for the presence of these antibodies. After about two weeks, the test results come back to the office where you had the test done.
Rapid HIV tests are available in some regions across the country. The entire process with the new tests, including taking a drop of blood from your finger, along with HIV counselling before and after the test, takes about 20 minutes. The results that you receive from the rapid test are very accurate.
Since HIV antibody tests look for antibodies and not the virus itself, you need to wait to be tested until HIV antibodies are made by your body.
The period of time from when you are infected with HIV to when antibodies appear in your blood is often called the window period. During the window period, the HIV test may give a negative result even though you have HIV.
Current Canadian HIV antibody tests can detect HIV infection in 50% of people by 18 days after infection; 95% of people by 34 days after infection; and 99% of people by one and a half months after infection. Some tests used in Canada have an even shorter window period, but the rapid test has a slightly longer window period. Talk to your doctor or HIV tester about the window period for the test being used.
A positive test result means that you have been infected with HIV. You can transmit the virus to people if you have unprotected sex or share needles or other drug-use equipment with them. A positive test does not mean that you have AIDS or that you will get it. It does not give you any additional information about the state of your health.
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Germs are all around us (and often inside us). They’re not always bad. Some are even helpful: for instance, your intestinal tract is loaded with “friendly” bacteria that you need for proper digestion.
Many kinds of germs, however, can make you sick—from mild, passing illnesses like a cold, to serious or even fatal infections. Fortunately, your immune system usually protects you from germs by recognizing those that don’t belong in your body and destroying them.
Your body’s first line of defence is the skin. The skin covers the outside of your body, acting as a physical barrier to germs. If there are breaks in your skin, even very small ones, they can provide vulnerable spots where viruses and other germs can enter the body.
Your mucous membranes are the soft, wet linings of your mouth, nose, genitals and anus. The mucous membranes also defend your body on the cellular level against germs. This cellular-level defence is called mucosal immunity. But mucous membranes are not a perfect barrier. Small breaks and thinning in these membranes can create entry points into the inside of your body for viruses and germs. And some germs can pass through a healthy membrane.
Luckily, there’s far more to the immune system. The immune system is made up of chemicals, cells, tissues and organs. The most important elements are white blood cells. These white blood cells patrol the body, moving through your blood and lymphatic system.
Your circulatory system, made up of your heart and blood vessels, carries blood to all the organs and tissues of the body. Your lymphatic system carries a clear fluid called lymph to different parts of the body. Lymph sweeps germs into the lymph nodes located in your armpits, neck, abdomen and groin. There, immune cells attack the germs.
When you’re fighting off the flu or other infection, you can often feel swollen lymph nodes in your throat and groin. This is a sign that your immune system is actively fighting the infection.
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how do you know you have hiv virus
Different kinds of white blood cells work as a team to recognize and destroy intruding germs. Specialized white blood cells also search for any of your own cells that are already infected. They destroy these cells to prevent infection from spreading further.
CD4+ cells play a central role in the immune system’s job of fighting off germs. CD4+ cells help recognize infection. They also co-ordinate all the other parts of the immune system to provide an organized response.
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Unfortunately, CD4+ cells are also one of HIV’s favourite targets. HIV attacks and destroys CD4+ cells, one of the most important parts of your immune system. This eventually leaves your immune system weak and unable to defend you against serious illnesses.
The body fights back by constantly producing new immune cells. However, over time, the virus tends to win out. The immune system becomes less and less able to suppress HIV and other infections. It also becomes less able to control the spread of certain types of cancer cells. When the immune system becomes weakened enough by HIV infection, these other infections and cancers can become serious or deadly problems.
If you are not treated with anti-HIV drugs after being diagnosed, HIV moves or progresses through several distinct phases. Some people progress very quickly, while others live with HIV for years without developing a life-threatening infection.
With effective HIV treatment now available, most people diagnosed with HIV and treated with anti-HIV drugs remain healthy and do not go through these stages.
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Primary infection refers to the time when you’re first infected with HIV. Many people are not aware that they are even infected with HIV at this point. Nonetheless, during this stage the virus multiplies rapidly. Within two to four weeks after infection, you may experience flu-like symptoms such as fatigue, fever, sore throat, swollen lymph nodes, headache, loss of appetite or skin rash. This illness usually lasts less than two weeks, although it can last as long as 10 weeks. Not everybody has these symptoms, so they’re not a reliable way to tell whether or not you’ve been infected. However, if you have these symptoms after unprotected sex or share needles or other drug-use equipment, speak to your doctor immediately and arrange for an HIV test. Research shows that the sooner you are diagnosed and begin treatment after infection with HIV, the healthier your body will likely remain.
During this period of seroconversion, the immune system is learning to recognize HIV. It has not yet developed killer proteins known as antibodies to attack the virus in any significant way. This means that:
When your body develops antibodies to HIV, this is known as seroconversion. This usually happens one to three months after infection. The blood test for HIV, which actually looks for the antibodies, not the virus itself, will only give positive results after you seroconvert.
Around this time, your viral load will come back down after the high spike seen during the primary infection period.
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Even if undiagnosed and untreated for HIV, you may feel perfectly well for a long time during the stage of HIV infection that follows seroconversion. Although your immune system hasn’t eliminated the infection, it is able to more or less hold its own against it, meaning the virus and your body now co-exist in a kind of standoff. Your CD4+ cell counts and viral load will remain relatively stable, although your viral load may go up if you’re fighting off other infections such as a cold or the flu. Many people have no symptoms of HIV disease, which is why this stage is sometimes called asymptomatic infection.
This is the longest stage of HIV infection (see graph). In many people, it can last 10 or more years, while in others, it may be a shorter period of time. During the asymptomatic infection phase, HIV is rapidly making copies of itself (replicating) and infecting new CD4+ cells. Your body is trying to counterbalance this loss of CD4+ cells by creating new, healthy ones. As long as your body can replace those CD4+ cells infected by HIV with healthy ones, your immune system will remain strong. In most cases however, if left untreated, HIV eventually starts to win this battle.
The strength of your immune system is measured by your CD4+ cell count (see Chapter 9, Monitoring your health).
Without anti-HIV treatment, the virus overburdens your immune system, your CD4+ cell count drops and you are at increased risk for developing symptoms of HIV infection. These can include swollen lymph nodes, night sweats, fever, diarrhea, weight loss and fatigue. You may develop infections like thrush or persistent vaginal yeast infections. These are all signs that HIV infection is progressing. For more information on infections associated with untreated HIV infection, see Chapter 12, HIV-related infections and cancers.
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If your HIV infection is not treated with anti-HIV drugs, you may progress to the stage known as AIDS. Experts have created a list of AIDS-defining illnesses that are used in the diagnosis of AIDS and in statistics. These illnesses are limited to more serious life-threatening infections, including bacterial infections such as Mycobacterium avium complex (MAC), fungal infections such as Pneumocystis pneumonia (PCP) or cancers such as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and Kaposi’s sarcoma (see Chapter 12, HIV-related infections and cancers).
Before effective anti-HIV drugs were available, progressing to AIDS and eventually death was the inevitable outcome of HIV infection for most people. However, with effective anti-HIV drugs, HIV disease can be controlled and does not progress toward life-threatening illnesses. Anti-HIV drugs can halt the progression toward AIDS in people with HIV who are healthy and it can also help people who have become sick with AIDS-related life-threatening infections to get better and stay healthy.
The way that we refer to HIV and AIDS reflects this new reality. Many people now refer to HIV disease or chronic HIV infection, reflecting the fact that AIDS is now an uncommon outcome of HIV infection where anti-HIV drugs are available.
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While anti-HIV drugs help to greatly reduce the amount of HIV in your body, chronic, ongoing inflammation produced by the impact of the virus is controlled but not eliminated by these drugs.
Inflammation begins during the early stages of HIV infection and continues over time. It is part of the body’s immune response to injury, irritation or infection. For example, it kicks in when we cut ourselves, come into contact with something we are allergic to or become infected with a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Cells of the immune system are activated and travel to the site of infection or injury. Signs of inflammation can include redness, swelling, heat, pain and loss of function.
Inflammation is one of the body’s ways of fixing or suppressing the problem. Over the short term, it can help us. But when inflammation continues over the long term—when it becomes chronic—it stops being beneficial and can contribute to the development of various diseases. When left unchecked, it has the potential to cause serious damage: to harm immune cells, major organs and the nervous system and contribute to various diseases.
Research is examining the role of inflammation on the health of people with HIV, particularly in cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, liver disease, kidney and other organ disease seen in people with HIV as we age with this disease.
The Epidemiology of HIV in Canada – a summary of the HIV statistics for Canada
CATIE fact sheets on:
Undetectable viral load and HIV sexual transmission
A Practical Guide to a Healthy Body for People Living with HIV
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Derek Thaczuk has worked and volunteered within the HIV community since his own diagnosis in 1992. He has provided practical support and home care, co-chaired the Ontario HIV Treatment Network,and served as treatment resources co-ordinator at the Toronto People with AIDS Foundation.Derek currently works as a freelance writer and editor for CATIE and other organizations to bring plain-language, understandable health and treatment information to people who are living with HIV.
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Top 10 HIV and hepatitis C stories of 2018
Overview of national data on opioid-related harms and deaths (Government of Canada)
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TreatmentUpdate 229: HIV dual therapy and antibodies
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It’s probably the one question we are most asked from online readers and is most often due to either one of two things: a past or recent event that may have exposed that person to the virus, or a symptom that some might believe are consistent with HIV.
It also tends to be a worrisome question insofar as there is only one, real way to know whether a person has HIV or not, and that’s by getting an HIV test. Today it recommended that all Americans between the ages of 15 and 65 be tested for HIV simply because early identification allows for an individual to be treated well before any ill effects of the disease can develop.
By contrast, waiting only allows the disease to progress, often silently, during which time the virus can cause long-term damage to not only the immune system but other organ systems, as well.
The simplest way to answer the question “Do I have HIV?” is to ask yourself the following:
how do you know you have hiv virus
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions then, yes, there is a chance that you’ve have been exposed to HIV. While it doesn’t necessarily that mean you have HIV, it does suggest you get tested.
But if, on the other hand, something is holding you back, take the opportunity to educate yourself about the virus. Learn as much as you can about how the virus spread, how the virus is not spread, and what it actually means to have HIV.
In the end, the more you understand about the disease, the less fear you’ll have in taking the steps to protect yourself whether you have the virus or not.
While HIV can potentially be spread by contact with blood, semen, or other body fluids, there are certain activities considered to be of high risk, low risk, and even negligible risk for HIV. Learn what four conditions must be present in order for an HIV infection to occur, as well as the “per incidence” risk of HIV by act.
There are some who still believe that you can point out a person who has HIV, either by physical appearance and/or by assessing the “type” of person they are. While there is absolutely no truth to thee beliefs, there are characteristics by which certain people with HIV are more likely to transmit the virus to others.
Within a week or two of exposure, around 40% of newly infected individual will exhibit sign of acute seroconversion, ranging from minor flu-like symptoms (fevers, chills) to more serious physical manifestations of the disease.
The course of an HIV infection can vary from person to person, with the disease progressing faster in some than in others. With that being said, there are are some opportunistic infections that are more likely to develop as certain stages of infections. Learn what these infections are, as well as the symptoms you would likely experience if they were to occur.
Irrespective of whether there are signs of infection or not, the most important thing you can do for yourself is to get an HIV test. You can get tested by your family doctor, at a free anonymous testing site, or by purchasing an in-home test kit.
If you HIV negative, you can at least move forward with a better understanding of how to remain negative. If you are positive, you can take steps to ensure that you remain healthy for many years by taking HIV therapy, which is not only incredibly effective but has far fewer side effects than ever before.
So do yourself a favor. Get tested today and get the peace of mind you deserve.
Get information on prevention, symptoms, and treatment to better ensure a long and healthy life.
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Within a month or two of HIV entering the body, 40% to 90% of people experience flulike symptoms known as acute retroviral syndrome (ARS).
But sometimes HIV symptoms don’t appear for years—sometimes even a decade—after infection.
RELATED: 10 Things You Never Knew About HIV and AIDS
“In the early stages of HIV infection, the most common symptoms are none,” says Michael Horberg, MD, director of HIV/AIDS for Kaiser Permanente, in Oakland, Calif. One in five people in the United States with HIV doesn’t know they have it, which is why it’s so important to get tested, especially if you have unprotected sex with more than one partner or use intravenous drugs.
Here are some signs that you may be HIV-positive.
One of the first signs of ARS can be a mild fever, up to about 102 degrees F.
The fever, if it occurs at all, is often accompanied by other usually mild symptoms, such as fatigue, swollen lymph glands, and a sore throat.
“At this point the virus is moving into the blood stream and starting to replicate in large numbers,” says Carlos Malvestutto, MD, instructor of infectious diseases and immunology in the department of medicine at NYU School of Medicine in New York City. “As that happens, there is an inflammatory reaction by the immune system.”
RELATED: Woman, 45, Who Was Diagnosed with HIV at 18, Shares Her Powerful Story: ‘I Believe in Life’
The inflammatory response generated by your besieged immune system also can cause you to feel tired and lethargic. Fatigue can be both an early and later sign of HIV.
Ron, 54, a public relations executive in the Midwest, started to worry about his health when he suddenly got winded just walking. “Everything I did, I got out of breath,” he says. “Before that I had been walking three miles a day.”
Ron had tested HIV positive 25 years before feeling so tired; fatigue during acute, or newly contracted, HIV might not be so obvious.
how do you know you have hiv virus
RELATED: How to Prevent HIV
ARS is often mistaken for the flu, mononucleosis, or another viral infection, even syphilis or hepatitis.
That’s not surprising: Many of the symptoms are the same, including pain in the joints and muscles and swollen lymph glands.
Lymph nodes are part of your body’s immune system and tend to get inflamed when there’s an infection. Many of them are located in your armpit, groin, and neck.
RELATED: 7 Myths About HIV and the Facts You Need to Know
As with other symptoms, sore throat and headache can often be recognized as ARS only in context, Dr. Horberg says.
If you’ve engaged recently in high-risk behavior, an HIV test is a good idea. Get tested for your own sake and for others: HIV is most infectious in the earliest stage.
Keep in mind that the body hasn’t produced antibodies to HIV yet so an antibody test may not pick it up. (It can take a few weeks to a few monthsfor HIV antibodies to show in a blood test). Investigate other test options such as one that detects viral RNA, typically within nine days of infection.
RELATED: 10 Reasons You Have a Sore Throat
Skin rashes can occur early or late in the course of HIV/AIDS.
For Ron, this was another sign that he might not have run-of-the-mill allergies or a cold.
“They were like boils, with some itchy pink areas on my arms,” Ron says. The rashes can also appear on the trunk of the body. “If [the rashes] aren’t easily explained or easily treated, you should think about having an HIV test,” Dr. Horberg says.
RELATED: 11 Reasons You Might Have an Itchy Butt
Anywhere from 30% to 60% of people have short-term nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea in the early stages of HIV, Dr. Malvestutto says.
These symptoms can also appear as a result of antiretroviral therapy and later in the infection, usually as the result of an opportunistic infection.
“Diarrhea that is unremitting and not responding at all to usual therapy might be an indication,” Dr. Horberg says. Or symptoms may be caused by an organism not usually seen in people with healthy immune systems, he adds.
RELATED: 13 Surprising Reasons You’re Nauseous
Once called “AIDS wasting,” weight loss is a sign of more advanced illness and could be due in part to severe diarrhea.
“If you’re already losing weight, that means the immune system is usually fairly depleted,” Dr. Malvestutto says. “This is the patient who has lost a lot of weight even if they continue to eat as much as possible. This is late presentation. We still see a lot of these.” It has become less common, however, thanks to antiretroviral therapy.
A person is considered to have wasting syndrome if they lose 10% or more of their body weight and have had diarrhea or weakness and fever for more than 30 days, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
RELATED: What Does It Mean to Have ‘Undetectable’ HIV?
A dry cough was the first sign Ron had that something was wrong. He at first dismissed it as bad allergies.
But it went on for a year and a half—and kept getting worse. Benadryl, antibiotics, and inhalers didn’t fix the problem. Neither did allergists.
This symptom—an “insidious cough that could be going on for weeks that doesn’t seem to resolve,” Dr. Malvestutto says—is typical in very ill HIV patients.
RELATED: How Long Is Too Long to Have a Cough?
The cough and the weight loss may also presage a serious infection caused by a germ that wouldn’t bother you if your immune system was working properly.
“There are many different opportunistic infections and each one can present differently,” Dr. Malvestutto says. In Ron’s case, it was Pneumocystis pneumonia (PCP), aka “AIDS pneumonia,” which eventually landed him in the hospital.
Other opportunistic infections include toxoplasmosis, a parasitic infection that affects the brain; a type of herpes virus called cytomegalovirus; and yeast infections such as thrush.
RELATED: 8 Signs Your Cough Could Actually Be Pneumonia
About half of people get night sweats during the early stages of HIV infection, Dr. Malvestutto says.
These can be even more common later in infection and aren’t related to exercise or the temperature of the room.
Similar to the hot flashes that menopausal women suffer, they’re also hard to dismiss, given that they soak your bedclothes and sheets.
RELATED: 5 Signs Your Hormones Are Out of Whack
Another sign of late HIV infection are nail changes, such as clubbing (thickening and curving of the nails), splitting of the nails, or discoloration (black or brown lines going either vertically or horizontally).
Often this is due to a fungal infection, such as candida. “Patients with depleted immune systems will be more susceptible to fungal infections,” Dr. Malvestutto says.
RELATED: This Woman Posted a Photo of Her Curved Nail on Facebook—and Had ‘No Idea’ It Was a Sign of Cancer
Another fungal infection that’s common in later stages is thrush, a mouth infection caused by Candida, a type of yeast.
“It’s a very common fungus and the one that causes yeast infections in women,” Dr. Malvestutto says. “They tend to appear in the mouth or esophagus, making it difficult to swallow.”
Ron woke up one day to find white patches on his tongue. He had thrush. For him, “It was not bothersome other than I didn’t like having it.” The infection was hard to get rid of, but finally cleared up after Ron started taking drugs to combat HIV.
RELATED: The Best Over-the-Counter Fixes for UTIs, Yeast Infections, Allergies, and More
Cognitive problems could be a sign of HIV-related dementia, which usually occurs late in the course of the disease.
In addition to confusion and difficulty concentrating, AIDS-related dementia might also involve memory problems and behavioral issues such as anger or irritability.
It may even include motor changes: becoming clumsy, lack of coordination, and problems with tasks requiring fine motor skills such as writing by hand.
RELATED: 16 Reasons You Have Serious Brain Fog
Cold sores (oral herpes) and genital herpes can be a sign of both ARS and late-stage HIV infection.
And having herpes can also be a risk factor for contracting HIV. This is because genital herpes can cause ulcers that make it easier for HIV to enter the body during sex. And people who have HIV tend to have more severe herpes outbreaks more often because HIV weakens the immune system.
RELATED: How to Get Rid of Canker Sores and Prevent Them From Ever Coming Back
Late HIV can also cause numbness and tingling in the hands and feet. This is called peripheral neuropathy, which also occurs in people with uncontrolled diabetes.
“This is when the nerves are actually damaged,” Dr. Malvestutto says. These symptoms can be treated with over-the-counter pain relievers and antiseizure medicines such as Neurontin (gabapentin).
RELATED: 10 Things Your Hands Can Reveal About Your Health
Advanced HIV disease appears to increase the risk of having menstrual irregularities, such as fewer and lighter periods.
These changes, however, probably have more to do with the weight loss and poor health of women with late-stage infection rather than the infection itself.
Infection with HIV also has been associated with earlier age of menopause (47 to 48 years for infected women compared to 49 to 51 years for uninfected women).RELATED: 12 Things Every Woman Should Know About Her PeriodIndividuals pictured are models and are used for illustrative purposes only.
It all starts with testing. By getting tested and knowing your status you can help end HIV.
For people living with HIV, starting treatment early is essential to improving health and reducing transmissions.
Enjoy the sex you want with a HIV prevention option that works for you. By using condoms, PrEP, undetectable viral load (UVL) or a combination, we can reduce transmissions and end HIV.
Ending HIV by 2020 is possible. By encouraging guys to test often, treat early and continue safe sex, we can put HIV in the history books.
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how do you know you have hiv virus
28 October 15
Symptoms of HIV can vary between individuals however the first signs of infection generally appear within the first 1-2 months. Many, but not all, people will experience severe flu-like symptoms which is your body’s natural response to the virus. This is called the ‘seroconversion’ period.
It’s during this time that it’s crucial to identify if HIV is the cause, as your viral load is very high which greatly increases the risk of passing it on. And the only way to know for sure is by getting tested.
The fever, usually one of the first symptoms of HIV, is often accompanied by other mild symptoms, such as fatigue, swollen lymph glands, and a sore throat. At this point the virus is moving into the blood stream and starting to replicate in large numbers. As that happens, your immune system induces an inflammatory reaction.
The inflammatory response generated by your besieged immune system can cause you to feel tired and lethargic. Sometimes it can make you feel winded while walking or generally feel out of breath. Fatigue can be both an early and later symptom of HIV.
Lymph nodes are part of your body’s immune system and protect your blood by getting rid of bacteria and viruses. They tend to get inflamed when there’s an infection. Many of them are located in your armpit, groin and neck which can result in aches and pains in these areas.
Skin rashes can occur early or late in the course of HIV seroconversion. In some cases the rash can appear similar to boils with itchy, pink breakouts.
Many people experience digestive system problems as a symptom of the early stages of HIV. However, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea can also appear in later stages of infection, usually as the result of an opportunistic infection.
It is important to stay hydrated. Diarrhoea that is unremitting and not responding to usual therapy might be an indication of HIV.
A severe, dry cough that can last for weeks to months without seeming to resolve (even with antibiotics and inhalers) is a typical symptom in very ill HIV patients.
Many people will get night sweats during the early stages of HIV. These can be even more common later in infection and aren’t related to exercise or the temperature of the room.
With such a vast array of symptoms, HIV testing is vital to ensure a proper diagnosis. If you think you’ve been exposed to HIV, or have an active sex life with casual sex partners, regardless of whether you are showing symptoms of HIV or not, it’s important to get tested as soon as possible.
If you’re in Sydney, you can get a rapid HIV test and STI check-up at a[TEST]. If you’re not in Sydney, you can still get a rapid HIV test and STI check-up using our ‘where to get tested’ tool here.
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